You may have read that stress can cause hair loss, which indeed it can. Once you have determined it is possible for stress to cause your hair to fall out, the next stage is to understand the causes of stress hair loss, and we have covered the most frequently asked questions below.
When you picture stress induced hair loss, you might be thinking of someone running around trying to get their life together whilst literally tearing their hair out. What you may not know is that stress can actually trigger hair loss on its own – no pulling needed. Here are some of the questions we get asked most frequently, if you have any questions of your own, feel free to post them in the comments.
How does stress cause hair loss?
The key to understanding why we might lose our hair is to understand how our hair works in the first place. Hair growth is cyclical, passing through three main stages: the growth stage (anagen phase), the rest stage (catagen phase) and then finally, the shedding stage (telogen phase). Under normal circumstances, we have an average of 100 000 hairs on our head and shed around 100 of these a day. When something disrupts these cycles, like stress, the cycle can speed up which can result in more hairs in the shedding stage, or follicles may not grow a new hair once a hair is shed.
This occurs because growing hair isn’t really a priority for your body – it’s not keeping you alive. If you’re stressed, your body focuses on just keeping you going and neglects unimportant tasks like keeping your hair healthy and plentiful.
What constitutes ‘stress’?
Stress is a bit of a broad term, especially when it comes to hair loss. When it comes to stress causing hair loss, we’re not just talking about emotional stress but physical stress as well. This means things like gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, going through surgery or coping with illness.
Like with a lot of things, the severity of the physical stress required to trigger hair loss will vary from person to person. Some people may not experience hair loss even after experiencing life threatening illness, whist some people will actually suffer hair loss after a bad bout of gastro.
Emotional stress is similar in that some people are not as susceptible to the physical side effects of stress as others. Unlike physical stress, however, it is unlikely that you will experience hair loss due to acute low levels of stress like being late for work (unless your hair loss is due to something like trichotillomania or you are particularly vulnerable to hair loss). Emotional stress is more likely to cause hair loss in situations like the death of a loved one, a messy divorce, even moving house when it is really unsettling. Still, everyday stress can have other negative health effects, so if you feel stressed often, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.
If my hair is falling out due to stress, will it grow back?
Due to the cyclical nature of hair growth, you’re unlikely to actually experience hair loss due to stress until a few months after the onset of the stress. Likewise, it will take a few months for your hair cycle to stablise after a period of intense stress. Once your hair cycle has normalised, it will take a further few months to regrow hair in any areas that have become sparse. So, the short answer is at least 6 months after you stop stressing.
How to reduce hair fall due to stress?
Besides the obvious (don’t get stressed!) the best thing to do is visit your doctor to talk through some options to help you cope with and minimise stress. They can also order blood tests to ensure that there is no underlying medical condition that could be contributing to your hair loss and/or stress.
How can I help my hair grow back after stress?